Earlier this month, for their penultimate event of the semester, the Lafayette Club hosted their seventh guest speaker, Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Australia. He discussed the relations between China and the United States, based on his experience dealing with the question of Asia and its engagement with Australia and the world. Mr Rudd was also joined by Professor Nicholas Rengger, president of the University’s Department of International Relations, who participated in the question and answer session at the end of the talk.
After attending an Oasis Retreat on the Desert Sands in the United Arab Emirates, landing in London Heathrow, and attending a lecture on discourse analysis at Oxford, Mr Rudd reached St Andrews as his third destination in a packed series of events. He shared a little about his background, and discussed his own family history, citing his British ancestry, humorously admitting a lineage of English criminology in his family thanks to his father.
He then began to discuss the topic of the evening, opening with the question: who is to lead the global world order?
“As China continues to look outwards, Europe, apart from maybe France, begins to turn inwards,” said Mr Rudd.
Based on their GDP, China will have the largest economy in the world by 2030, meaning that for the first time since George III’s reign, the world will have a non-English-speaking and non-Western leading country. The continuing and rapid success of China can be attributed to several key factors, beginning with the Chinese president Xi Jinping’s energy and overall charismatic drive to execute his vision for China. As Mr Rudd said, within five years on the job, the President has acquired a body of thought named after him; what Jinping says to and with the party, country, and ultimately world, will serve for a long time.
On China and Jinping’s strategies, Mr Rudd said, “When the Chinese regime runs into a brick wall, they pause, analyse, and work their way around it. They maintain a strategy for their place in the world.” Simultaneously with this, since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been little strategy in the West amongst the USA and Europe. This “break” taken by other Western states, coupled with China’s action and willingness to look outwards, continues to propel the country into an increasingly prominent role within the international community.
He added, “As long as China continues to embrace the internal economic trajectory, they will reap the long-term benefits and economic dividend, and continue to lead.” He noted that with their vision, China does not hope to establish another government influenced by Western ways, or one similar to Korea. Rather, they maintain a vision of their own.
The solution to coping with an ever-growing China is, according to Mr Rudd, to achieve a balanced relationship with the country. In terms of Australia, Mr Rudd noted that the nation could maximise engagement with China, and if any disagreement were to arise, to be robust and prepared to resolve issues without any drama. His emphasis was that nations such as Australia and beyond could negotiate with China. He quoted the saying, “You can walk and chew gum at the same time” to further represent his notion that a nation could work out internal and external problems while simultaneously maintaining a relationship with China.
During the Q&A, individuals posed a series of relevant and key questions. When asked about international Chinese students potentially acquiring Westernized modes of thought, and bringing them home to China as models to implement in society, Mr Rudd noted that it was the “$6 million question,” one that he would not be able to fully answer. Yet despite the depth of cultural overlap, the appeal of Western academia, and the scale of investment capital already overwhelming markets, Mr Rudd noted a tradition deeply rooted in Chinese culture that was strikingly characteristic of realism and like Morgenthau’s mentality. Indeed, Mr Rudd noted that this viewpoint “permeates” Chinese tradition. Another student, and fellow Aussie, asked Mr Rudd if he believed that Australia might be afraid of China. His initial sense of comedic relief came back, as he joked about the 3 million crocodiles dispersed across the island country of Australia. What was there to be afraid of?
Mr Rudd’s presentation incorporated knowledge acquired from his own experiences and career, and the topic discussed was tied in relation with the Lafayette Club’s mantra and spirit. He noted their name of Lafayette, mentioning what humans stand for in the Enlightenment Project, as well as Focault, Diderot, and approaches discussed in the discourse analysis lecture he had attended at Oxford. He applauded the Club’s efforts in addressing and engaging with issues of today, and encouraged the Club as well as the student body to let the spirit of Marquis de Lafayette prevail and shine on in their lectures, engagements, and overall efforts.
The Lafayette Club has continued to host a series of speakers and talks on issues of today, emphasising the potential amongst students to find the solutions to various issues and present day situations.